The Vows

India’s low divorce rates are shooting for the sky. Our nation is among the countries with the lowest rates of divorce in the world. But in the last five years alone, there’s been a 100 per cent increase in divorce in India. BBC’s Mark Dummet says, “Most of those splitting up are members of India’s thriving, urban middle class whose lives have been transformed by India’s boom, and whose aspirations are radically different to those of their parents and grandparents.”

Another report says that couples in the 25-35 age group accounted for 70 per cent of the cases, and 85 per cent of them were filed in the first three years of marriage. Earlier, cruelty, desertion and harassment used to account for two out of three cases. But more recently, compatibility has been cited in a majority of the cases. Most of the cases this year have been filed by younger couples, who mostly complain of problems relating to attitudes while filing for divorce.

In 2006, it was recorded that 1,246 cases of divorce in Bangalore pertain to the IT sector exclusively. Delhi doubled its rate of divorce in the last five years and even agriculture-driven states like Punjab and Haryana have seen divorce rates rise by more than 150 per cent in the last decade. During the same time, Kerala, known to be the most literate state, experienced a 350 per cent increase in divorce rates.

Some of these statistics can be misleading because it seems to suggest that because divorce is rising, there’s an imminent threat to the sanctity of marriage. But this view, somewhat naively, assumes that there was any sanctity to begin with. A patriarchal culture that frowns upon divorce can very cleverly disguise alcoholism, abuse, infidelity, and just plain loveless indifference.

India needs to revisit its relationship with marriage.

At the risk of being too simplistic, we get married in India for the same reason we do everything else in India—because we have to. We have to study. We have to get a job. We have to get married. We have to have kids and we have to repeat the whole thing all over with them. Thus, we survive.

But in the last decade or so, India is awakening to strangely new urban sensibilities, economic ambitions, customised morality and the supreme goal of personal fulfilment.

Things are changing.

A woman isn’t financially bound to her husband and feels free to walk out on him if he can’t accept her high-powered career, without expecting her to keep the house as clean as his mother did for him. A man isn’t restricted by his commitment to his wife if there’s another woman at work who gives him the kind of respect that he can’t seem to find at home. Where there is neither love nor respect, odds are, there will be deadness or divorce.

Mark Dummet says, “Nowhere represents those changes better than Gurgaon, which only two decades ago was little more than a village. Its buffalos and mustard fields have now made way for shopping malls, coffee shops and multi-national IT companies. A state-of-the-art metro line connecting Gurgaon with Delhi, 25km (16 miles) away, was only recently opened. And while millions of Indians might aspire to live in Gurgaon’s high-rise apartment blocks, they are populated by many unhappy couples.”

It’s not out of order to speak of God in the context of marriage.

In the Jesus way of looking at things, God is the groom and we are His bride.

Marriage was never meant to be about personal fulfilment, procreation, growing a genealogy, sustaining healthy community or keeping up social appearances—even though its been reduced to all those things at one time or another. We’re married so we can become more like God.

My wife and I are newlyweds.

But nothing could have prepared us for the changes that marriage demands. We jumped into the heart of the sea and though its thrilling to be in the water, sometimes it feels like the current is bit too strong. What keeps us going is the common conviction that marriage isfor us, but its not about us. Its divine in its nature because its making us less like ourselves and more like the One who brought us together—so we can create a destiny that serves His purpose in our time.

We’re discovering that conflict is woven into the fabric of intimacy. We’re learning that if we’re going to be one, we have to embrace the reality of conflict and answer its call to change. Evidently, conflict isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a real thing.

Even perhaps a necessary thing for true intimacy.

Conflict has the power to be destructive or redemptive. It can tear two people apart or it can challenge them to die to themselves and find true life in a unique oneness. My wife and I respond to conflict in different ways. I run away from it and she runs towards it. She tears up and I get angry. She needs to feel loved and I want to be respected. My wife puts it in simpler terms, “We’re both idiots and we know it”. Eventually though, conflict loses its power over us when we make the choice to change.

Perhaps when we reduce marriage to less than a way for God to gently melt our character and slowly build us into His likeness, it leaves us feeling shortchanged and unprepared for the journey because we had a different destination in mind. But when marriage is embraced and welcomed with a Jesus way of looking at things, it not only becomes a safeguard against the statistics—it even rises to become what you always hoped it would be—it becomes your home away from Home.

India needs to get married because it wants to—not because it has to. To be married is to promise to change, till death says you’ve done enough.

Image Credit: Daniel Lee

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